The captaincy is something which has haunted Arsenal for years since the departure of the great names like Tony Adams and Patrick Vieira as it has been passed from player to player whether they are worthy for it or not. After years of failed leaders, it looks like finally Arsenal have found their man to lead the club forward on the pitch in twenty-three-year-old Martin Ødegaard.
Before Ødegaard came to the football club, the captaincy had been passed around multiple dressing rooms to players on their special occasions or to simply our best players rather than our leaders. The armband had lost its meaning, in my opinion, and we were long gone of seeing the Vieira or Adams days of a strong figure to lead the team and the whole football club. For example, back in 2016 Theo Walcott was given the captains armband for a home defeat against Chelsea to celebrate his ten-year anniversary at the club which caused uproar within the fanbase. A player who wasn’t suitable to be a captain was gifted it due to an anniversary!? Could you imagine what Tony Adams would’ve said if he had to give that up for one game due to an anniversary! It was all about principle.
Walcott’s appointment of Arsenal captain just for the one of match came in the latest carousal of captain appointments when the club seeming elected a new captain every eighteen months. In recent years, simply it’s went to our best player in Pierre-Emrick Aubameyang and then Alex Lacazette afterwards rather than electing a born and proven leader. Granit Xhaka looked to be the most settled and proven leader over the last ten years but due to a number of external factors was stripped of the captaincy as the pressure built. This is where Real Madrid prodigy Martin Ødegaard stepped up.
The Norwegian international had a fairly successful loan spell in the 2020/21 season which was enough for the club to take the risk and sign him for £30 million from the Spanish giants. He had an impressive season on the pitch last year and with Lacazette and Aubameyang leaving the role of club captain became vacant once again. I don’t want to focus on Martin’s performances on the pitch because they have been excellent as always and want to focus more on what he brings to the captains role.
I vividly remember going on Twitter the day that he was announced as captain and seeing multiple rival fan groups laughing about the Norwegian’s appointment as our captain. My first thought to that is that it’s an extremely narrow-minded point of view that due to him not standing there and screaming at his teammates that he is suddenly seen as a weak figure. There are multiple different types of leadership and since being the captain at the start of the season even in the handful of matches we have played there are a number of examples of the good leadership qualities on display.
Before the defeat at Old Trafford, the Gunners had only conceded a handful of times in the Premier League and three of which coming from individual errors. There was Saliba’s own goal against Leicester, Gabriel giving the ball away against Fulham leading to a goal and Ramsdale allowing a Douglas Luiz corner to go in. There is one thing in common about the moments after all of these three goals and that is Martin Ødegaard is the first player over to the man who made the mistake.
The first person over there to tell them to keep their head up rather than barking orders at them. I do agree that you need to be strong as a captain but just because Martin doesn’t bark orders or get aggressive with his teammates doesn’t less him as a captain. In all of these situations his actions improved the outcome of the players performances and Arsenal bounced back in all of these circumstances to win.
He is seen as a quieter and shyer member of the squad but he is very well respected as he has been in the public eye now since his move to Real Madrid when he was just fifteen years old. He is captain of his club and country at the age of just twenty-three-years-old which is a remarkable achievement for someone who doesn’t always convey his emotions in a captain’s sort of manner on the pitch.
Personally, I prefer this type of leadership to someone who will rip into players on the pitch because we have seen that too many times over the past years at Arsenal and then it gets to players with the inflated ego. William Gallas is a prime example of this when he was stripped of the captaincy after the Gunners drew 2-2 at Birmingham City back in 2008. Arsenal conceded a last-minute penalty to draw the game as he openly laid into Gale Clichy and then kicked an advertising board before sitting on the pitch in a strop. I have seen enough of those days and the days of it being passed around in a carousal from Vermaelen to Mertesacker to Walcott.
The days of simply rewarding our best players with it have gone like Van Perise and Aubameyang. Now, we have a model professional who has been given it because of his excellent leadership qualities as well as his performances on the pitch. The captaincy clearly isn’t weighing too heavy either has Ødegaard has had an impressive starting to the season netting three times in the opening six matches. The leadership group with players such as Granit Xhaka and Gabriel Jesus provide support to Martin but he is doing a brilliant job and finally it feels like the football club has a stable and strong figure to take us to the next level.